Foxvideo Productions

Media Production

Out with a bang!



Over 500 people, 6 cameras (2 manned), 4 mics plus a desk feed, a live video link to the ante-room, a multicam FCPX edit, a 1 hour 20 minute program, encode and upload to YouTube in HD within 4 days, 2 DVD's and I've left the building, my last major gig before retirement (honest guv!)





A 'new' MacPro!

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I’ve been using an ageing MacPro 4.1 Quad I bought in 2009, at the time it was 1 year old, over the years I've added some major upgrades, additional RAM, 3 additional internal drives, an upgraded GFX card plus an additional GFX card, a SATA card and more recently the main boot drive was switched to an SSD, it had 2 boot drives, one for El Capitan and another SSD for Snow Leopard with Final Cut 7 as I had many FCP 7 projects, some of which are still live.

It was at the point where I couldn’t install High Sierra and many Apps were now out of date because of the limitation of El Capitan, including FCPX so I’ve been looking around to replace it. I needed a 2010 or later MacPro 5.1, there were many on offer on eBay that were 2009 4.1 machines where the Firmware had been upgraded to 5.1, had newer, faster processors fitted and were in the the £850 - £1000 price range and one of these looked to be an option.

I did spot a 2010 MacPro 5.1 with a starting price of £600, it had High Sierra, 32Gb RAM and a 1Gb Radeon HD 5770 GFX and looked to be ideal, I was prepared to go to £700 on it, with 8 seconds to go on eBay and without any bids on it, I put in £700 and got it for the original £600 as there were no other bidders.

Due to circumstances it didn’t turn up for over 12 days (long story!) but yesterday it arrived. First thing was to plug it in to make sure it all worked, the 32Gb RAM was there, the HD 5770 worked and the seller had installed a new 640Gb hard drive with a fresh install of High Sierra. With everything looking OK It was then a matter of adding my existing El Capitan SSD into it, booting to it and forcing the upgrade to High Sierra which went well. The 640Gb drive that came with the Mac was formatted and is now a Time Machine backup, I then added a Blackmagic Intensity card and 2 more hard drives with my working projects and data from my 2008 MacPro, the seller had only included 1 Mac hard drive caddy so I’ve ordered some more from eBay.

Starting up it all worked, it then downloaded all the High Sierra updates for the Apps I had including FCPX, Motion, Keynote, Pages and some minor Apps, with a working High Sierra MacPro it was then time to put the 2008 Snow Leopard machine back together to be able to use FCP7, I now have 2 MacPro’s, one for FCPX, RapidWeaver etc and another just for FCP7 which, to be honest I still prefer to edit long form projects on.

It’ll take a few days to get both to where I want them to be, some serials are motherboard referenced but I was able to de-register them from the 2008 MacPro and then re-register on the 2010 machine, just one minor App needs to be re-registered and I have a support ticket in for that. Obviously I needed more monitors now with two MacPro’s going, I’d spotted a 27” Samsung with DVI, VGA and HDMI recently in a local cash converter type shop, the guy was asking £35 which to me seemed a bargain so I bought it and it works fine with no blown pixels on my new High Sierra machine.

Old dog, New tricks?

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So you roll along in life comfortable in your skills and abilities and then all of a sudden - WHAM! Someone throws you a curve ball and asks for something you’ve never learned or tried before and you think, at my stage in life do I really want to get involved?

Within the space of just a couple of days I was asked to add a ticketing and payment system to a website and then “Could I add a forum?” to another website.

Short answer to the first one was “It’s not for me to sort that out for you, give me the details after you’ve set it up and I’ll add it to your website”… Well, it didn’t quite work like that. The original booking form had been made last year in a paid JotForm account, the account had lapsed and it was now a free account with limitations - only 3 payments per month along with advertising on the form - not ideal.

The client was a little perplexed with it all so I made the account into a full account again (at a cost to the client of £32.00pm), some changes were made to the text and then the addition of a Paypal checkout (which the client also had to set up). Testing it with a £10 booking and it all worked, then the client checked it and it didn’t work! Looking at it all again I couldn’t find any problems, someone else made a booking which worked so we concluded the client had used the email address for the JotForm account and that was why it was thrown out at the final stage - 2 days on and it’s all up and running - Lesson one learned.

Can I add a forum to website? - "I’ve never done that mate, wouldn’t know where to start!" - Off to Google, I found hundreds (well a lot) of commercial options from $19pm to over $500pm which was totally out of the question for this client. Looking at Open Source stuff one option kept getting a mention - MyBB.

The install instructions looked easy so I downloaded it, unzipping the file and reading the install stuff again it all made sense, upload a folder via FTP, make some filename and permissions changes and it was good to go…..

It took me around 10 minutes to install, I entered the address in a Browser and it was all there - my own Forum! Then the hard work of formatting it into topic sections, forum styling, user permissions, backups etc started, so far I’ve spent 4 hours on it and it’s starting to look reasonable.

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This was all just for a test so I knew what I was talking about next time the client phones but looking at what I’ve produced, I’m tempted to put it live on my video website - Lesson two learned, maybe an old dog can learn new tricks!

Screen Recorder Movavi

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As a 'media producer' living out in the sticks (well, just north of Gloucester) and dealing with older clients, those who are technology challenged or those on very slow internet connections DVD's still play a huge part in my media distribution. On the Mac, DVD Studio Pro (now obsolete) is still the main method to produce these DVD's, I've never had any problems with it and still love using it but a guy I've supported with Final Cut Pro Studio for many years still struggles with DVDSP.

He recently needed to produce a DVD that would play single chapters then return to the menu, I tried to explain 'stories' were the way to go and sent him a demo DVDSP project file, I had thought of doing a tutorial video but the recommended tutorial recording software for the Mac is Camtasia for £150 which, when you only need it very occasionally is a bit expensive. I look at AppShopper.com regularly and remember buying Screen Recorder Movavi (normally £28.99) for £0.99 when it was offered on sale for 2 days, it seemed too good to miss at that price but it's sat on my hard drive and never been used.

Now seemed a good time to try it out, I connected a tieclip mic to the Mac, loaded a new DVDSP project and opened Screen Recorder Movavi, the interface is simple - just set the screen size - I used 1920x1080 then opened DVDStudio Pro and hit the record button……

OK, I messed up the first 3 attempts (I'm a producer not a presenter!), on the 4th attempt I'd started to get the hang of it and managed to get to the end of 9 minutes showing how to add stories to a DVD, at one point I made a mistake but carried on and did it again, it would be easy to edit out in FCPX. Viewing it back it had worked well, a quick edit in FCPX and then I used Miro to get the file size down for Dropbox. For £0.99 it was an excellent buy for an App that'll only ever get very occasional use and gives results as good as £150 program.

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New kit (toy's!)

Sometime ago I was asked about producing a series of short 5 minute videos on the books of the Bible presented by a friend who lives locally. We produced an 'intro' version with a view to look for funding or sponsorship which so far we've not managed.

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Chatting over coffee (as you do) we realised we didn't need funding to shoot these, we had the scripts, the location (a side room in a local church) and most of the equipment including lighting and green screen background. The demo was produced using a home made autocue - a hood and 60/40 glass, a 15" lcd screen, a Macbook and software, it worked well but was a bit awkward in use. The ideal solution was a Datavideo TP-300 using an iPad but at around £380 new it was outside our budget as we're now funding this series personally. Browsing eBay I spotted a new, unused TP-300 with a start price of £230 + £30 p&p or a Buy it now for £325 + £30, I queried the expensive postal cost with the seller who assured me it was correct, in my opinion £355 to 'Buy it now' was too expensive compared to the new dealer price so I waited till the auction was about to end, with no bids on it I entered £230 fully expecting a reserve of much higher - I won the auction, so £260 off my Paypal and 5 days later I'm now the owner of a mint, unused TP-300.


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This version of a prompter is suitable for smaller cameras which meant using my JVC HM700 was out of the question unless I used two tripods, however my JVC HM100 would be ideal shooting @ 1920x1080 for YouTube and DVD. To make shooting a little easier I also bought a 7" on camera monitor with HDMI, it's full 1920x1200 and 1200:1 contrast ratio with many onscreen features - peaking, audio display, histogram and focus assist. It was on offer from Amazon at £119 instead of £175.

When we originally shot the demo, although the camera didn't need attention once setup, I did find operating the autocue at the same time as watching the presenter and monitoring the audio difficult, now with the iPad I've found a 'voice controlled' script reader we can use, Voice Teleprompter on the App store. There's a 'lite' version for free however this version can't import scripts but is ideal to test, the 'pro' version is £19.99 and allows import of .docx files from Dropbox, Google Drive etc, I've tested it out and it appears to work fine, I still have iCue on the iPad which can be controlled from an iPhone if we find Voice Teleprompter is not suitable. The only limiting factor now is the presenters cough - we'll have to wait until it clears up!



Copyright & Licences - Wearing 2 ‘hats’

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As a content and media producer I’ve always tried to be completely on the right side of the law with copyright and licences, I’ve accumulated a huge library of images, videos and music from many sources that are either Royalty free, copyright free or CC0 Public Domain, it’s surprising what you can find and use if you look carefully and are prepared to spend time on the internet. A good source for me has been marketing emails offering deals, for example I bought a lifetime subscription to StockUnlimited.com for $39 with a library of over 1 million visuals including the © image above.

I also wear another ‘hat’ as a media operator at our local Chapel running Powerpoints, CD’s, video clips and the mic mixer. Recently I was given a CD with 2 music clips to be played out at a Memorial service in our Chapel following a funeral service, the producer side of me asked where the clips had come from and the reply was 'YouTube’, I immediately responded with the “you can’t just download stuff from YT and use it etc” response. The following morning I thought it best to do some research and what I found was interesting as it was very different to my situation as a producer.

I found the following PDF, written in 2015 and put out under the United Reformed Church banner - https://www.urc.org.uk/images/Communications/copyright_booklet_web.pdf one interesting paragraph I found states:

“A change in copyright law that came into force in 2012 means that to play music from a commercial recording (CD, MP3 etc) churches now need a Phonographic Performance Ltd Licence (PPL) as well as a PRS for Music Church Licence. Previously churches were totally exempt from PPL but that exemption has been removed and churches now need a PPL licence to play recorded music at any church event, including youth and children’s clubs, discos, keep-fit classes, or as background music at coffee mornings or fetes. Whereas PRS represents the rights of songwriters, composers and music publishers, PPL represents the rights of performers and record companies. To cover this, CCLI offers a PPL Church Licence. Neither the PPL nor the PRS for Music licence are required for music performed or played within services of divine worship in church (where no charge is made to attend). This includes weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and funerals, as well as the usual Sunday and mid-week services and any other study or prayer meetings.”

Double checking this, I found the same information on the official PPLUK website here: http://www.ppluk.com/I-Play-Music/Businesses/How-much-does-a-licence-cost/Churches/ and just to be sure, again on the CCLI website - https://uk.ccli.com/copyright-licences/

I sent an apology email to the person I’d berated the night before with the information and links I’d found, I guess my confusion had come from my background in media production and that under certain circumstances the rules were different however if I was to record the Memorial service for the family (which I won’t), that’d be a whole new copyright conundrum!

Situations vary widely so if you have your own copyright query, make sure you do your own research and satisfy in your own mind you are totally within the law regarding copyright, there’s always another image or track out there that will be available if you look that doesn’t have complicated copyright considerations to worry about.

SSD - Wow!

It doesn't look as if Father Christmas will be bringing me a new iMac Pro this year so I looked at the possibility of putting an SSD into my ageing MacPro Quad. Amazon were offering a 480Gb Sandisk SSD for £109 but if you know the 4 x hard drive setup for a MacPro it uses a rail and caddy system and the usual 2.5" to 3.5" fittings wouldn't work. A look around on Amazon and I found a StarTech 2.5" SSD or hard drive caddy using a 3.5" inch hard drive sized case that looked as if it would do the job for £17.99.

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An Amazon Prime order saw them both delivered the very next day, the SSD fitted the caddy and the caddy fitted the Mac hard drive mounts, I booted the Mac as normal, used Disk Tools to format the SSD then Carbon Copy Cloner to clone my existing hard drive, then System Prefs to boot the Mac from the SSD and waited…

The Mac sprang into life in around a quarter time it usually took, using the Blackmagic Speed test before the change it was reading / writing at 75, using the SSD the write was 150 and the read 250, Photoshop now opens in the blink of an eye, for around £130 it's like I have a brand new Mac!

Just wondering now if I dare dismantle my iMac and MacBook Pro……

FCPX must have!

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I'm still not a fan of FCPX but I'm using it for most projects now although I still have some FCP7 projects on the go (that's a long story) but this is a must have if you're using FCPX, and it's free!

http://commandpost.io/

Best thing for me? SCROLLING TIMELINE!

There's many other useful tools that should have been included in FCPX - Moving Markers, Custom shortcuts, Clipboard history, Timecode overlays and lots of other cool stuff, it's certainly going to make me more acceptable to using FCPX.

The client is always right, except when they’re wrong!

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An interesting conundrum recently, I received an SD card with 90 minutes of HD footage shot on a consumer video camera, the client, a professional in their own right, wanted 2 short programmes for YouTube from it. I transcoded the AVCHD to ProRes, popped it into Final Cut as one long section, exported to a self contained movie and then into Compressor as the client wanted a burnt in timecode DVD to produce an edit decision list - so far so good. The short sections of footage that I actually watched were passable but certainly not professional standard, the camera wasn’t level, the presenter (the client) had no ‘headroom’ and the head moved well outside the ‘action safe’ zone, there was loud aircraft noise over some of the dialogue and on pieces to camera, the presenter walked towards the camera to turn it off while still speaking.

Around a week later I received an EDL, I’d been expecting short full sections explaining single points that would have then been covered between sections by a transition or fade to black…..

Wrong, the client had produced the EDL by cutting different sections of clips together talking to camera including taking out pauses in the dialogue and cutting small sections of clips together from different shoots (but same location) even the clips with the aircraft noise were in the edit list, it appeared the edit was to be based on the dialogue which, using normal video editing techniques could easily be covered by cutaways but, in this case I had no cutaways or demonstration footage of the points being made, no possibility of using graphics and no chance of a reshoot!

I edited as per the EDL, the edits made presenter jump around the screen like a string puppet, even 5 frame dissolves between the cuts looked wrong so I sent the DVD (again with BITC) back and then spent several hours drafting an email explaining all problems with the footage and the edit and what a cutaway was, I didn’t go down well!

The client phoned and said the edit looked exactly how they envisaged it, I tried to explain that once on YouTube it would look very amateurish and it was certainly not an edit I wanted my name associated with. I tried to explain that if I’d gone to them for professional services I’d expect them to advise and deliver that service and that I was only doing the same by giving my advice and experience of 25 years of video editing!

After a few raised voices a compromise was established, the client would contact a video professional known to us both for advice. The following day I received an email saying I was to continue with the project, a revised EDL would be made and, wherever possible taking into account my comments. A couple of further emails both ways making suggestions on how to improve what to be honest, was a bit of a dog’s breakfast and it looks as though we’ll produce something usable although for only the second time ever in over 25 years, I’ve asked that my name is never associated with it if asked!

I’m very grateful to a fellow video industry professional who I know reads my occasional ramblings for mediating a successful outcome!

Hopeful or what!

These have been appearing regularly on eBay for months - I wonder why they aren't selling?

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